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AS and KU Researchers Go North

TPAAE researchers from the Art Academy in Szczecin (AAS) and Kenyatta University (KU) journeyed to the foothills of Mount Kenya in August 2021, where their work focused on traditional dance and bodily practices related to initiation rituals for women in traditional Kenyan societies. The team included Prof. Aleksandra Lukaszewicz Alcaraz from AAS and Dr. Priscilla Gitonga, Dr. Isaiah Oyugi, and Anne Mwiti from KU. 

Prof. John Katuli from KU’s Dance and Music Department guided the researchers on stops in Embu and Meru, market towns north of Nairobi. The team explored remote places in Embu and visited cultural centers and performance groups.  

In meeting with the Kamba people of the region, researchers learned about the food, dance, and music related to courtship. In time spent among the Mberu people, researchers observed traditional dances that accompany a girl’s initiation into womanhood and which contain postures present in Slavic rituals. Lukaszewic and Gitonga are working on a joint paper to be published in 2022 on the cross-cultural connections among clans living in Africa and Europe. Oyugi, and Mwiti also gathered material for their research. 

The visit included a stop at the Murithi Cultural Center in Meru, where researchers learned about the role of the Meru people in the Mau Mau movement that toppled British rule in 1963. Of note is the important role was played by women in the rebellion, including Field Marshal Muthoni, who was among those laying down arms at Ruringu Stadium in Nyeri when peace was declared in December of that year. 

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